Artists Join UK Uncut for Whitehall Protest Today

Treasury Revenue & Customs is focal point for protest against Vodaphone Goldman Sachs tax write off

UK Uncut, The Occupy London campers and members of the public will be marching on Whitehall today to ask for the resignation of HMRC boss Dave Hartnett. This protest comes after revelations that Hartnett’s office at HMRC had made incompetent errors, which would force it to chase 146,000 pensioners for underpaid tax. This story runs parallel to the desicion made by the Treasury to write off Vodaphone and Goldman Sachs for six and ten billion in unpaid tax, some dating back 7 years. A survey in 2010 revealed Hartnett to be Britain’s most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant. He was treated by local and international corporations 107 times in a three year period.

The group UK Uncut joins the protest today as it swells into a mass-grouping to rival New York’s Wall Street protest equivalent. UK Uncut plan to encamp in Finsbury Square after a march on Whitehall at noon, which will highlight the Governments failure to prosecute Vodaphone and investment bank Goldman Sachs among others, for avoiding to pay UK tax on billions of pounds in back cooperate taxes. The Occupy London supporters have refused to comply with a public request to move on from St. Pauls with some digging in at the foot of the church and another group of around 100 people setting up camp in near by Finsbury Square.

Earlier this year UK uncut and its splinter group Art Uncut, supported by many British artists, protested during a series of marches and events including Irish rock band U2’s performance at the Glastonbury festival (U2 have avoided paying Irish taxes by registering the band in Holland) to highlight government cuts to the arts. Art Uncut was founded to make the kind of societal model that many believe to be better: a society with well-funded arts, well-funded public services, and where there is a certain amount of redistribution so that the gap between rich and poor does not get too wide. They began as a small group of artists and musicians involved in UK Uncut actions, but hope now to open up the anti-cuts movement to a broader audience. It is a movement for those who are not temperamentally inclined to protest, or perhaps haven’t made their minds up yet. If people are serious about building a broad, sustained coalition of opposition with the potential for political influence, this is a group to look into.

The Closure on Friday of St Paul’s cathedral is said to be costing about £16,000 a day in lost tourism revenue. This overreaction by the church, is in the opinion of many, a way of generating an anti-protest sentiment from the public. A wedding was cancelled on Saturday and Sunday services were also stopped by the church, which is heavily funded by banks and other city institutions, to the tune of around 3m per year in donations. The church originally welcomed the protest as a peaceful way of bringing the issues of bank greed to the media.This protest is no longer just about St Paul’s, it is not something that can be dealt with from one location” A St Paul’s spokesman said, “A lot of independent traders are being affected and that whole part of London is not easily accessible.

From UK Uncut press release. – Campers at Occupy London and activists from direct action group UK Uncut will join forces to descend upon the head office of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) on the afternoon of Monday 24th October to demand the resignation of HMRC boss Dave Hartnett

Protesters- outraged at Hartnett’s role in approving secret sweetheart deals to let mega-rich corporations off billions in tax- will gather at the Occupy LSX camp at St. Paul’s Cathedral at 12 noon before marching on HMRC’s head office at Whitehall in an attempt to reach Hartnett’s office.

Hartnett was, last week, again dragged in front of parliament’s Public Accounts Commitee to answer questions on dodgy deals with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs that cost the taxpayer up to £6bn and £10m respectively . MPs on the committee accused Hartnett of abusing his position to “cover up his own mistakes”.

A survey last year found that Hartnett was Whitehall’s most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant, treated by corporations 107 times in 3 years to top a survey of 172 senior civil servants . Tory MPs and commentators from across the political spectrum have joined the call for Hartnett to resign.

Occupy London supporter Kyshia Davey said: “HMRC has just announced it will be going after 146,000 pensioners to demand hundreds of pounds from  them following a tax code cock-up. Meanwhile, its boss is striking secret deals with opulent corporations to let them off billions of pounds in tax. Hartnett is fatally undermining public confidence in the UK’s tax system at a time of austerity and he must resign immediately.”

UK Uncut activist Sam Gilbert added: “Whilst 25,000 rank-and-file staff at HMRC have been fired, leaving the organisation almost incapable of functioning, Hartnett has been carving out a career as the most ‘wined and dined’ civil servant in Whitehall. The money from Vodafone’s £6bn tax dodge alone could have prevented all of the cuts in public services over the past year.”

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